Travel, Travel Writing, and British Political Economy : “Instructions for Travellers,” circa 1750–1850 book cover
1st Edition

Travel, Travel Writing, and British Political Economy
“Instructions for Travellers,” circa 1750–1850

ISBN 9781138019508
Published November 11, 2021 by Routledge
374 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The book draws on the history of economics, literary theory, and the history of science to explore how European travelers like Alexander von Humboldt and their readers, circa 1750–1850, adapted the work of British political economists, such as Adam Smith, to help organize their observations, and, in turn, how political economists used travelers’ observations in their own analyses.

Cooper examines journals, letters, books, art, and critical reviews to cast in sharp relief questions raised about political economy by contemporaries over the status of facts and evidence, whether its principles admitted of universal application, and the determination of wealth, value, and happiness in different societies. Travelers citing T.R. Malthus’s population principle blurred the gendered boundaries between domestic economy and British political economy, as embodied in the idealized subjects: domestic woman and economic man.

The book opens new realms in the histories of science in its analyses of debates about gender in social scientific observation: Maria Edgeworth, Maria Graham, and Harriet Martineau observe a role associated with women and methodically interpret what they observe, an act reserved, in theory, by men.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 "Instructions for Travellers"

3 Travels with Malthus: the population principle in the field

4 Travelers in search of Malthus’s "authenticated facts": the case of Ireland

5 Travel accounts of Spanish America and British political economy, circa 1800–1823

6 "To Give this Country its True Value": British Travelers in La Plata and Chile, and the Financial Crisis of 1825–6

7 Travels with Harriet Martineau

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Brian P. Cooper is an independent scholar whose research explores the boundaries of economics past and present. His publications include Family Fictions and Family Facts: Harriet Martineau, Adolphe Quetelet, and the Population Question in England, 1798–1859 (2007), and "Social Classifications, Social Statistics and the ‘Facts’ of ‘Difference’ in Economics", in Toward a Feminist Philosophy of Economics (2003).


"Brian Cooper unearths the hitherto neglected connections between economics and travel writing to successfully shed fresh light on each of these arenas. The book is an important addition to our knowledge of the history of political economy"

Robert J. Mayhew, Dept. of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, UK